03 Dec OC Art Blog Abroad: FMOCA Kyoto, Japan
Last week I had the pleasure of visiting Kyoto, Japan during peak fall season. As I understand it the last two weeks of November are the prime time in Kyoto to visit temples, explore zen gardens, and take in the sight’s and sounds of this unique city, while the local foliage burns red, yellow and orange. In between visits to the many breathtaking temples and gardens, we found some time to take an art break and check out the fairly new contemporary art museum in Kyoto, the Forever Museum of Contemporary Art (FMOCA).
FMOCA is located inside Kyoto’s Gion Kobu Kaburenjo Theater, a monument of traditional Japanese architectural design. FMOCA’s exhibition areas are fitted throughout with tatami mat flooring. This was the first museum experience I have had where I needed to remove my shoes to see the exhibition. According to the museum, they have spent more than 30 years collecting the nearly 700 works of art, of which almost 60% are pieces by Yayoi Kusama, with another large percentage being works by Joseph Beuys. An interesting collection strategy for sure.
The exhibition we caught was titled Pumpkin Forever and was mostly a retrospective like show of Kusama’s work in the permanent collection. Pumpkin Forever included early work like Infinity Nets (1963) through to the impressive sculptural piece A Boat Carrying My Soul (1989) and including probably the most impressive work on display, Yellow Trees (1992). And of course there where several Kusama pumpkins in the show, including a large pumpkin sculpture that greets you in the front garden. Before visiting FMOCA I have only seen Kusama’s work in individual pieces here and there, and chalked up her popularity to the narrative that surrounded her (making art in the psych ward, etc.), and her Instagram friendly infinity rooms. However, after having an opportunity to see this wider breadth of Kusama’s work you can now count me as a fan. The opportunity to see her work over time was enlightening and satisfying.
So if you ever get the chance to visit Kyoto in the fall, or anytime for that matter, put FMOCA on the list. You’ll get to see some great art, and if that art isn’t great, you can go work it out on the cushions the museum provides for Zazen (Zen meditation) overlooking the Zen garden. That will be sure to get you right again.